Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)
Dong Quai is one of the major herbs used in Chinese herbal formulas. It is closely related to European Angelica archngelica, a common garden herb. In the late 1800s, an extract of dong quai known as Eumenol became popular in Europe as a "female tonic". Today, dong quai is still generally considered a remedy for menstrual problems by people in the West.
In Chinese traditional medicine, dong quai is considered one of the most important herbs for strengthening the "xue,", or blood.
The supervision of a qualified Chinese herbalist is recommended to determine the correct dosage and formula. In regards to self-treatments, 10 to 40 drops of dong quai tincture 1 to 3 times daily, or 1 standard 00 gelatin capsule is recommended 3 times daily.
Today, dong quai is often recommended as a remedy for menstrual Cramps, or dysmenorrhea, and PMS. It is also commonly recommended for menopausal symptoms, including Hot Flushes. However, scientific backing for the use of dong quai is weak; most are animal studies, test-tube research, and uncontrolled human studies (1-5). In a recent controlled study, dong quai was shown to be ineffective in treating menopausal symptoms (6).
It may be that dong quai is most effective when combined with other herbs. Combinations of Dong Quai with Paeonia, and Dong Quai with Bupleurum are often used to treat the following: menopausal symptoms, menstrual Pain, fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, abnormal foetal movements, and pelvic inflammatory disease. However, no scientific evidence exists to verify the effectiveness of the formulas on these conditions. A qualified Chinese herbalist is best able to prescribe a formula to fit individual needs (7, 8, 9).
SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS
Aside from mild gastrointestinal distress and occasional allergic reactions, dong quai appears to be non-toxic. Certain substances found in dong quai may increase sensitivity to the sun, but this effect has not been documented in individuals who use the herb whole.
It is traditionally believed that taking dong quai on its own (without other herbs) long-term can damage the digestive tract as well as overall health.
Women in their first 3 months of Pregnancy or with excessively heavy Menstruation should avoid taking dong quai. Patients with acute respiratory infections should also avoid taking dong quai.
Safety in young children, nursing women, and patients with severe kidney or liver disease has not been established.
INTERACTIONS AND CONTRA-INDICATIONS
Dong quai may interact with alkaloids, dopamine receptor agonists, anorectic drugs (fenfluramine), Ritodine HCl, quinidine, antidiabetics, Folic Acid antagonists, some corticosteroids, antihypercholesterolemics, anticoagulant drugs, some sedatives, and the analgesics nalbuphine HCl and propoxyphene HCl.
Antidiabetic drugs may require adjustment when used in conjunction with dong quai.
Caution should be exercised when used in conjunction with CNS depressants or stimulants. Avoid use with procarbazine antineoplastic agents.
Dong quai contains a small amount of coumarin, which may affect the action of almost any drug.
1. Chang HM, et al. Pharmacology and application of Chinese materia medica. Singapore: World Scientific, 1983.
2. Igarashi M. Proceedings of the satellite symposium on Sino-Japanese traditional medicine (Kampo). 16th World International Congress on Pharmacology. Excerpta Medica, 1987: 141-143.
3. Bensky D and Gamble A. Chinese herbal medicine: Materia medica. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 1986.
4. Hsu HY, et al. Oriental materia medica: A concise guide. Long Beach, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Institute, 1986: 540-542.
5. Zhu D. Dong quai. Am J Chin Med 90(3-4): 117-125, 1987.
6. Hirata JD, et al. Does dong quai have estrogenic effects in postmenopausal women? A double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 68(6): 981-986, 1997.
7. Chang HM, et al. Pharmacology and application of Chinese materia medica. Singapore: World Scientific, 1983.
8. Igarashi M. Proceedings of the satellite symposium on Sino-Japanese traditional medicine (Kampo). 16th World International Congress on Pharmacology. Excerpta Medica, 1987: 141-143.
9. Bensky D and Baronet R. Chinese herbal medicine formulas and strategies. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 1990.
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